Staying Present

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. ~Buddha

My favorite part of the day is the morning. As I have gotten older, I have awkened earlier and earlier. At one time the reason for my pre-dawn rumblings was to get a jump start on the day-unload the dishwasher, start some laundry,etc. I also had to squeeze in a small bit of exercise since my post work obligations usually involved errands or my sons’ activities plus a nightly family meal. Since the days of staying ahead of my family’s messes  and other duties are over, my early mornings belong soley to me. During my training days for half-marathons, it was not unusual for me to get up at 4:30 am  in order to have time to drink a cup of coffee, get my lunch packed, stretch and head out the door by 6 am. Nowadays, I still set the alarm for the same time but linger in bed listening to the morning news or the sounds of the quiet outside.

What I have learned from my early rising is the importance of being in the moment. Staying observant-especially of Mother Nature. It has also allowed me to remember my sons’ morning awakenings as babies. They were thrilled to wake up and greet the brand new day and take in all its wonder. We all lose that feeling way too soon.  How many of us are guilty of just lying in bed when it is time to get up-dreading the day?  The reality is that not all of life is a joy ride. In my own life, I have had too many days that I had to spend embroiled in legal tussles due to my divorce and post divorce issues. My mother’s illness and death left me weighted down with grief that made it hard to get out of bed. But the other reality is that nothing bad lasts forever, either. The struggles and heartaches allow you for opportunities to experience true joy.

I guess this is why I have a hard time with others’ endless rants and complaints about getting up in the morning. How bad is it really?  Is it because you have allowed yourself to adopt and become coerced by the 21st century’s practice of overscheduling your life? Do you wake up waiting for the day or week to end? Why are you rushing time when you have no idea when your time will end here?

This attitude and practice makes a person their own time thief.  The miracles and joys and humor and comfort of even the most ordinary moments are lost when we don’t allow ourselves to be present wherever we are. I guess this is why we now feel the need to request that cell phones be shut off during church services, for example. It makes perfect sense to me that they are off during such a sacred time but I still witnessed a fellow parishioner stealthily using hers during a recent interfaith service. Besides the fact the it is down right rude to be texting or checking email during this time, it showed me that she was not fully embracing the experience.

And this is what we all need to do. I try not to miss a sunrise- a challenge in the winter northern climate because of the overabundance of gray days! Sometimes it is hard to capture the days moving moments so I have taken to writing them down in my pocket journal (thank you Jenn!). Here are couple of recent entries:

This morning I arose at my usual pre-dawn time to the light of the moon. My bed is situated as to allow me a view of my vast backyard and the woods that surround it. The whole yard was awash in moonlight and it was there that I saw the movement of a large animal figure-a coyote. Normally, I hear them howling in the middle of the night and at times I have seen one or two in distance as I go for my morning run. Today was different. A lone coyote just feet from my back door- an awesome sight!

This morning I awaken with the remants of the week-the start of a cold and a scheduled court appearance involving my former husband.  I decide to embrace the day anyway and ask the universe for an efficient process as I head out for a long run. It is still quite dark but so, so quiet. Not a soul in sight-not even the headlights of cars quite yet. The scent of an animal comes from the bushes-not a deer, maybe a fox? I remain alert as my body warms up to the cold and the movement of my still sleeping leg muscles. My new shoes are still being broken in-day two of a blister is a burning reminder of this fact! I love being in tune at this time of day. My only companions are the thoughts that I allow to move in and out of my head. Today I take a slight detour on my route because it looks as if the sunrise is going to be outrageous. I head for a place where the sky is big and I am not disappointed. The night slowly gives way to the day and its pale yellow beginnings.  Over the course of the next two miles the sky becomes golden, then deep orange and finally fiery red by the last mile. My day is set and I know it will be good!

I wrote the latter entry while waiting to be called by the judge. (I wanted to capture my day and my real life on paper.) It didn’t take long to be go before her and the appearance was over in less than five minutes. I spent the rest of the day with my oldest. We got him ready for his second and last semester of college and we enjoyed a lunch date at an old graduate school haunt of mine. Later that day, one of his best friends stopped in. Still later, my youngest came home from work filthy and hungry. His girlfriend showed up too. The noise in the house grew as did the sounds of food preparation. I was simulantaneously making mac and cheese, serving salsa and chips and my homemade chocolate cake. Then my cousin called saying that he secured a car purchase for my oldest son (he has been saving and saving money for this very moment!) While my youngest was in the shower, I enjoyed an enlightening and positive conversation with his girlfriend. Then my oldest son’s girlfriend arrived adding her own extraordinary energy and love to the fray.

Folks, this is life. Moments of being in tune with the world around you as well as those you love. Staying present allows us to give birth to everyday joy and helps us conserve energy for those trying times when we need to put our best self forward.

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